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Thailand to hold 4G auction as planned
[BANGKOK] Thailand said on Thursday it will hold an auction for fourth-generation (4G) mobile spectrum in September as scheduled, helping shares of the country's top mobile operators rebound from losses caused by worries of a delay.
Deputy prime minister Pridiyathorn Devakula also said the industry's regulator will be in charge of the bidding process.
Mr Pridiyathorn's comment to reporters came after local media published reports that the planned auction will be postponed.
Shares of Advanced Info Service (AIS), Thailand's largest mobile operator, rose on Thursday afternoon to be up 1.8 per cent by 0800 GMT, while those of Total Access Communication (TAC), the second-largest, rose 1.1 per cent. The overall Thai index was down 0.22 per cent.
They had fallen 4.2 per cent and 3.4 per cent, respectively, on Wednesday after the media reports.
Mr Pridiyathorn said the government will not interfere with the planned auction to be held by regulator National Broadcasting and Telecommunication Commission (NBTC). "The government will set up a new temporary committee to help oversee the digital economy policy, which will also consider 4G issues before handing over authority to NBTC," he said, adding he expected the committee to start meeting in March.
AIS is expected to be most affected if the auction is delayed, given the market leader needs more spectrum to serve rising demand for data services, while third-ranked True Corp is likely to benefit from the delay, analysts have said.
Unlike its rivals, AIS is the only mobile operator without 4G services.
True, 18 per cent owned by China Mobile, is the country's largest 4G service provider. It plans to expand the 4G network to cover 80 per cent of population by the end of June. "This could allow True to take market share from AIS especially high ARPU (average revenue per user) customers,"Youssef Abboud, analyst at UBS, said in a note.
True shares have risen 11 per cent over the past one month, outperforming an 11 per cent decline in shares of AIS and the 8.8 per cent fall in those of TAC.